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Students still pay five million euros in public transport fines

The total amount of fines for students and former students who forget to cancel their public transport chip card fell to five million euros in 2021. A new payment system to be introduced at the end of 2023 aims to reduce the figure still further.

photo Bert de Boer / Shutterstock

Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf is pleased with the measures for reducing the number of public transport fines for students. The record amount of 52.6 million euros was set in 2014. According to a new survey, the figure in 2021 was five million euros.

But where have all those fines come from? Since the introduction of the public transport chip card in 2010, students have had to activate their ‘transport entitlement’ at a public transport ticket machine. When it expires, they also have to deactivate it at a ticket machine. Anyone who fails to do that on time gets fined, apparently to prevent misuse.


In the course of the years, the transport companies have earned millions of euros in that way. A reconstruction by HOP shows that they did their best to prolong the situation for as long as possible.

They successfully lobbied the government of the time for even higher fines, but in 2016 the House of Representatives put a stop to that because in the majority of cases there was no question of misuse. The House was unwilling to allow the public transport chip card to become a cash cow for the transport companies.

Since 2017, various measures have been proposed, most of which took effect only in 2019. These are now being reviewed. The most effective is the measure whereby students get a public transport fine only if they have actually travelled with their expired card. In addition, the fine was lowered in the first two weeks.

It also helps that since 2020 expired public transport chip cards are placed on a blacklist so that students can no longer use them to travel. But a fine will have already been issued. The investigators estimate that without all those measures the total amount of fines in 2021 would have been 27 million euros.

The improvement in the information provided by Education Executive Agency DUO seems to have less effect. The investigators refer to the Nibud (National Institute for Family Finance Information) Student Survey 2021, which reports that only 61 percent of the students interviewed know that their public transport chip card is not cancelled automatically. In 2017, 84 percent were aware of it.

New payment system

It is expected that the new payment system that the transport companies want to introduce will lead to a further decrease. Students will then no longer have to go to a public transport ticket machine to cancel their student travel product. Furthermore, it will also be easy for the public transport companies themselves to terminate the student travel product once they have been informed by DUO that a student or former student no longer has a transport entitlement.

As the current Dutch Student Finance Act states that the student travel product has to be uploaded to a public transport chip card, an amendment to the law is required first. Additionally, DUO and the public transport companies still have to introduce the systems. The overall aim is to abolish the public transport chip card system at the end of 2023, after which the many fines will be a thing of the past.

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